The impact of state preemption of local smoking restrictions on public health protections and changes in social norms

J Environ Public Health. 2012:2012:632629. doi: 10.1155/2012/632629. Epub 2012 May 10.


Introduction: Preemption is a legislative or judicial arrangement in which a higher level of government precludes lower levels of government from exercising authority over a topic. In the area of smoke-free policy, preemption typically takes the form of a state law that prevents communities from adopting local smoking restrictions.

Background: A broad consensus exists among tobacco control practitioners that preemption adversely impacts tobacco control efforts. This paper examines the effect of state provisions preempting local smoking restrictions in enclosed public places and workplaces.

Methods: Multiple data sources were used to assess the impact of state preemptive laws on the proportion of indoor workers covered by smoke-free workplace policies and public support for smoke-free policies. We controlled for potential confounding variables.

Results: State preemptive laws were associated with fewer local ordinances restricting smoking, a reduced level of worker protection from secondhand smoke, and reduced support for smoke-free policies among current smokers.

Discussion: State preemptive laws have several effects that could impede progress in secondhand smoke protections and broader tobacco control efforts. Conclusion. Practitioners and advocates working on other public health issues should familiarize themselves with the benefits of local policy making and the potential impact of preemption.

MeSH terms

  • Attitude to Health
  • Humans
  • Policy Making*
  • Public Health / legislation & jurisprudence*
  • Smoking / legislation & jurisprudence*
  • State Government
  • United States